President Obama warned Democrats in Congress today not to "jam" a health care reform bill through now that they've lost their commanding majority in the Senate, and said they must wait for newly elected Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to be sworn into office.
The president also said the same voter anger that swept him into office in 2008 carried Brown into office on a stunning upset victory Tuesday night over heavily favored Democrat Martha Coakley.
"Here's my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office," the president said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years."
Brown defeated Coakley in the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Obama said that while the White House was surprised about the trajectory of the race a week ago, they were not, by last night, surprised by Brown's upset win.
With his victory, Brown becomes the 41st Republican vote in the Senate -- meaning Democrats have lost the 60 seat super-majority they need in the Senate to avoid a Republican filibuster.
Obama insisted today that the Senate wait for Brown to be seated before they make any changes to its version of the health care reform legislation.
"Here's one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table: The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated," the president said. "People in Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got the message – today he said the Senate would not push a bill through before Brown is seated.
"We're not going to rush into anything," he said on Capitol Hill. "As you've heard, we're going to wait until the new senator arrives before we do anything more on health care. There are many different things that we can do to move forward on health care, but we're not making any of those decisions now."
Obama said today it was important for the American people to take a look at the substance and details of the health care reform legislation that Congress is considering.
"I think point number two is that it is very important to look at the substance of this package and for the American people to understand that a lot of the fear mongering around this bill isn't true," Obama said.
The president said while it was not his job to dictate to Congress a legislative strategy, he would set a direction on how to achieve a bill that both the House and Senate can pass.
"I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on," he said.
Obama said that while there were provisions in the Senate bill that the House does not like, the two bills "overlap about 90 percent."
The president said there are "core elements" to the health care legislation that both Republican and Democrats agree on and they must come together to work for comprehensive reform.